Monday, February 27, 2012

Happiness is a brown speckled egg

With all due respect to Charles Shultz, his infamous happiness list needs to be amended~ as far as I'm concerned happiness is a brown speckled egg.
Over the past months I have been waging a campaign called "Team Chicken", in the hopes that my husband will finally surrender and embrace having chickens. Some methods have been subtle; leaving chicken publications in areas that encourage reading (enough said) and then others more overt- "Honey I would love to have chickens for my birthday." To say my efforts have met resistance would be an understatement, but I am not one to give up, easily that is.
Yesterday, at lunch, I decided to enlist our friends Chris and Trish in my assault. Now, drafting soldiers when they are sort of unaware of the battle ahead is not the wisest of moves- but they are familiar with all areas of animal husbandry and support in my joining the world of chicken ownership was sort of assumed. Their opinions were mixed and my heart rose and sank with each varied opinion. Chickens are dirty, chickens will eat just about anything, chickens will roost in your trees, fresh eggs are much better. To add to the roller coaster, I found out that Chris' dad had just got chickens. 25 to be exact, and my first thought was- "that's way over his quota, unless he's gonna add eggs to the bar-b-que menu he offers at his corner store- he should share the chicken wealth." Everywhere I turn, people are reveling in their feathered companions. Well reveling might be an eggs-ageration (cough cough) but I am chicken-less and envy kind of comes with the territory.
I was so pre-occupied nursing my barren existence that I almost missed the part where Trish reminded Chris that his dad had sent me fresh eggs. For me? I quickly brightened- forgetting my brief loss. After all the war is not over and I do get fresh eggs- on a regular basis. Slowly the wheels began turning...perhaps some chicken apprenticing would be in order. Help feeding and caring for the chickens would give me practical experience (a huge bonus in my Team chicken column) and I'll feel better about putting in some effort in my egg supply.
Today I took my 18 wonderfully brown eggs and made Deviled Eggs, Fudge Brownies and Yeast Rolls. As I washed them I appreciated the variety in size and color. I wondered at their happy little speckles and found happiness. I know they did not come from my own chickens, Team Chicken still lives. But as in most worthy campaigns, you have to remember to take the time to appreciate what it is you're fighting for.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fried Rice

As a child, living in Hawaii, I was exposed to all sorts of Asian cooking. When my son was born I wanted him to be able to try new things as well- ok maybe I just wanted someone else to be able to eat with chopsticks since my husband is all about meat and potatoes. Matt learned to eat with chopsticks before he could do cursive, but for the most part we only ate Chinese, Japanese and other Asian foods in resturants. It seems to be that the simpler the foods the more intimadated we can be to make them at home.
Such was the case with Fried Rice.
Now I know, Fried Rice as we know it is "americanized"- but we love it and whether it's American, Chinese or a hybrid of both, limiting it to "take out" is to deprive oneself of a delicious meal anytime. The anytime part is what motivated me to the following recipe.
Being in college, Matt tends to keep strange hours. He studies late at night, sleeps in then suddenly changes it all when called into work. Meals need to be ready to heat and eat, but still have some nurishing ingredients. Fried Rice has become a go-to item. Cooked fresh, to his tastes and with ingredients I can pronounce, it checks all the boxes.
Hint: If you cook the rice in large batches ahead of time, you cut the work in 1/2.

4 C. cooked long grain white rice (better to slightly undercook rice)
1 C. onion (I prefer sweet onions)
2 eggs (beaten)
3/4 C. soy sauce
3 tbls sugar
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic (pressed or smashed)
1/2 tsp powdered ginger (freshly grated ginger is great too, but adjust to taste)
1/4 C. vegtable oil (using cooking spray will cut fat, but the taste and mouth feel of rice will be different)

Mix soy sauce, ginger, garlic and sugar together, set aside.
In a heavy bottomed skillet (I used cast iron), add a tbls. of oil and heat on high. Add eggs, coating the whole bottom of the skillet. When eggs are cooked on one side flip over and cook remaining side. Remove frome pan. Let cool as you cook onions, then slice into thin strips.
Add another tblsp of oil and saute onions. Cook until soft but not brown (you may want to reduce heat).
Add remaining oil and cooked rice. Stir to heat. If the rice is cold from fridge, you may want to beak it up a little with your hands before adding it to the skillet.
Add soy mixture and incorporate it into the rice. The rice will absorb the sauce and change color.
Add egg strips, mix and you're ready to serve.

This is a basic platform- you can add veggies, cooked meats, seafood- whatever your tastes call for. It's also a great time to use some of those bits of leftovers.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Over the last several months, I have been thinking of what it means to "share". For those of us who ever babysat multiple children or were real parents (unlike myself I have one fabulous son who is 20) and had more than one child; the word share was a 24/7 concept. Share your toys, share the last cookie, share the blanket. My mother would often remind my sister and I that if we didn't "share" there would be none. Sharing was not just a way to stay out of trouble, it was done in the face of having nothing at all.

Whole communities exsisted because of the practice of sharing and it's more wholesale version "bartering". The owner of cows traded milk for eggs, the owner of chickens traded eggs for wheat; and before too long everyone had French Toast. It wasn't a mandate or a rural form of communism, it was a means of survival and community. Maybe it's the Wal-Mart on every corner, or that life seems to move so fast, or maybe we are so self-absorbed in our own lives to see need or name our own, - whatever the reason, we simply don't share much anymore.
Last summer, a friend declared she had pears. Her huge pear tree had provided her with an abundance of fruit and she wanted to share what was left. I am not a huge fan of pears; although one of my favorite jams I made this year was a Pear and Plum with Ginger- go figure, but I told her that I would like some to make jams for Christmas. The next Sunday, Lorie's husband appeared with nearly a bushel of pears, which I in turn transformed into various jams. After exhausting my recipe supply as well as my jelly jars, I still had about 2 doz. pears left. I remembered that Mrs. Payne, who's family owns the farmers market I frequent, had longed for some pears to make jam like her mother used to. The next day I shared the remainder of the pears with her.
Because one friend shared with another, dozens of people were blessed with pears in some form or another- sharing is foundational to community. It's sad that it seems to have gone out of fashion. While others endeavor to "bring back sexy", I think I might just try to bring back sharing.
So what does that have to do with amazing 1/2 Gal. canning jars? They, and dozens more of varying sizes, come from an older gentleman I never met. A friend of mine, who is always on the lookout for jars for me, was helping him clean out his basement. He used to can long ago but age and health problems make it difficult for him. She asked if he was willing to sell them. He said, "No." But he was willing to give them to me, which brings me hope that sharing is making a comeback!